St Albans Secondary College explains their practical approach to supporting students to develop their numeracy.
The development of a targeted numeracy intervention strategy at St Albans Secondary College began with a whole-school review of student learning data. Led by the School Improvement Team, the review identified that the junior secondary years were a critical period for ensuring students not only had the requisite skills and understanding but also the confidence to positively engage in learning.
After researching strategies, including peer observation at other schools, St Albans decided to implement the 'Getting Ready in Numeracy' (GRIN) Intervention Program for a group of students experiencing low learning growth in maths in Years 7 and 8.
What does targeted numeracy intervention look like at St Albans?
The GRIN strategy involves maths teachers providing additional tutoring sessions of 15-20 minutes, three times per week, with small groups of 2-3 selected students in Years 7 and 8.
The purpose of the program
The sessions build students' skills and knowledge by introducing them to key mathematical concepts before their regular maths class, ensuring students are prepared and can confidently participate in the upcoming class.
Leading teacher Owen McIntyre explains the methodology behind the targeted intervention and how it works in practice to support students to develop their skills.
'The whole design behind the program is to look at the student's confidence in their learning and also the classroom dynamic,' said Owen.
'We're targeting students who are still achieving some level of understanding but may be inhibited by their reluctance to speak out in front of their peers, to ask questions or to admit that they're probably not doing as well as they'd like.'
'The thinking behind it all is that we've created an environment where there are three students to one tutor, where they can freely admit that they don't have the level of understanding that they would like.'
The role of the GRIN tutor
School leaders provide the teachers working as GRIN tutors with time release to collaborate with the students' regular maths teachers to ensure that the intervention is timely and effective.
'Part of the time release to be a GRIN tutor is that we get a two-period release to do three sessions a week.'
'Probably three quarters is taken up by delivering the intervention to students, and the other quarter is there to liaise with their classroom teacher, so that the classroom teacher and the GRIN tutor are partners in delivering numeracy instruction.'
'The idea is that I am going to cue the students up on some of the key terms they're going to see in the next lesson and some of the concepts, but I don't necessarily teach them everything they're going to see - that's not the purpose of the intervention.'
'The purpose is for them to be familiar with the concepts, the words, the way it's going be taught and the sort of things they're going to see on the board; so that when they do end up seeing it, it's not this whole new thing.'
Practical intervention: A GRIN session in action
Recapping our learning
'In the introduction, we do a quick recap about how they found their last maths lesson and what topic they covered.'
'I already know what topic they've worked on, as I've liaised with the classroom teacher, but it's important to get each student's input and see that it matches.'
'Once you start to jog their memories with a couple of examples of what they covered last lesson and activate their prior knowledge, then you can really prepare them for the intervention.'
Pre-loading future concepts
'We then talk about what they're going to be learning and start delivering some of the concepts that they're going to see, and really give them the freedom to make as many mistakes as they need.'
'This is where tools like the mini whiteboards are valuable because if they make a mistake they can just erase what they've written. They can make mistakes here and they don't feel embarrassed about what they've done.'
'This section really gives them a feeling for the concepts they're going to be seeing in the next class and revisiting some of the work they've already done.'
A focus on vocabulary
'Then there's a literacy component that describes some of the key terms they're going to see in the next chapter or the next exercise.'
'Particularly when you get to things such as geometry, there's words like pronumeral, measurement, expression, coefficient, that we tend to take for granted as maths teachers but students can be quite derailed by.'
'Finally, there's always some Q and A, where we can break down some of the terms they'll see and going over the work they're going to see.'
Planning for future success
St Albans is seeing fantastic results in learning gain and growth in those students who have participated in the GRIN intervention.
Students have greater confidence in their regular maths classes, and their beliefs about their capabilities as students have shifted since they have started to enjoy greater success in their learning.
'Now is the time for us to look at what worked really well with this smaller sample size of three that can then be extrapolated and used for a whole range of students at the same stage of learning.'
To review a transcript of this video, see:
Effective Practice - Targeted Numeracy Intervention at St Albans (docx - 62.59kb)